According to Pew Research, the respectability of the brand name known as the United States appears to be locked in freefall. Let’s begin with a brief excerpt from Andrea Peterson’s 7-14-14 Washington Post article entitled “America’s ‘Freedom’ Reputation Is on the Decline a Year after NSA Revelations”:
“A main selling point of the U.S. brand on the international stage has long been summed up with the screech of eagles and one word: ‘Freedom.’ But in the wake of the revelations about U.S. surveillance programs from former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden last year, the world is less convinced of the U.S.’s respect for personal freedoms according to new survey results from Pew Research.
“The Snowden revelations appear to have damaged one major element of America’s global image: its reputation for protecting individual liberties. In 22 of 36 countries surveyed in both 2013 and 2014, people are significantly less likely to believe the U.S. government respects the personal freedoms of its citizens. In six nations, the decline was 20 percentage points or more.
“Pew calls this decline ‘the Snowden Effect.’ And some of the drops are significant—especially in countries where NSA surveillance received major domestic news coverage like Germany and Brazil.”
Those who have lost faith in the U.S. government would be even more devastated to learn that Snowden’s “revelations” regarding the NSA’s domestic surveillance program pales in comparison to what’s actually happening every day in this great land of ours.
Way back in December of 1956 a British science fiction film called The Gamma People was released on the lower half of a double bill (its companion feature was the first film adaptation of George Orwell’s anti-totalitarian novel, 1984.) The Gamma People told the tale of a phantasmagoric dictatorship known as Gudavia whose fat and happy citizens are mind controlled by mad scientists run amok and constantly surveilled by drone-like halfwits—the unsightly results of behavioral experiments gone very wrong. No doubt, this film and its more famous co-feature were intended to be interpreted by its 1950s whitebread audiences as satirical critiques of communist Russia. Sixty years out, however, The Gamma People seems more like an eerily prescient look into the future (i.e., the present) of the United States of Amurrrica. The reality of our situation is closer to the cinematic science fiction of 1956 than it is to the reportage of mainstream newspapers published today.
In the spring of 2015 OR Books released my book, Chameleo: A Strange but True Story of Invisible Spies, Heroin Addiction, and Homeland Security, which chronicles the bizarre experiences of my friend, Dion Fuller, and his ongoing battles with the police state into which the United States has devolved since the dawn of the twenty-first century. To summarize the story briefly, in the summer of 2003 Dion allowed a stranger—a young man named Lee—to sleep on the floor of his apartment in San Diego. It turned out that this stranger was a Marine who had gone AWOL from nearby Camp Pendleton. Before leaving the military base, Lee decided to abscond with sensitive military equipment, including two dozen hi-tech night vision goggles and a DOD laptop computer that contained Above Top Secret field journals written on the battlefield in the Persian Gulf. Some of this equipment Lee decided to bring with him into Dion’s apartment. This equipment led the NCIS (Naval Criminal Investigative Services) right to Dion’s front door. Both Dion and Lee were arrested and taken to the San Diego County Jail, where Dion was “interviewed” for a week. The authorities decided that Dion and Lee were in league with international terrorists and had been planning to sell this equipment to al-Qaeda. Dion tried to convince them that he barely knew Lee and was simply trying to help out a kid who seemed to be down on his luck. The NCIS did not believe Dion, and told him so over and over again during their 24/7 Abu-Ghraib-style interrogation sessions. Dion refused to cooperate with the NCIS’s investigation, since he knew nothing that could help them. After about seven days had passed, the San Diego police told Dion he was free to go. And indeed, Dion was able to leave the jail and return to his home—but that was only the beginning of the nightmare. From that summer day in 2003 until now, Dion has been harassed by a seemingly endless series of psychological warfare tactics perpetuated by a group of government flunkies that have come to be known among targeted individuals as “gangstalkers,” i.e., people who stalk innocent civilians as an organized gang, often employing sophisticated technology to drive the target insane. Dion is not the only such target in the United States, or even in the world. The phenomenon known as “gangstalking” is a worldwide problem, and has grown more and more common since the events of 9/11.
Robert Guffey is a lecturer in the Department of English at California State University – Long Beach. His most recent book is Chameleo: A Strange but True Story of Invisible Spies, Heroin Addiction, and Homeland Security (OR Books).